"I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything. But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it," Saban told USA Today in a story published Tuesday. "And there's probably a significant number of people who don't respect people who make self-proclaimed sort of accolades for themselves."
Saban's team beat Georgia 26-23 in an overtime thriller to win the national championship that most people recognize, the College Football Playoff title. Alabama had routed defending champion Clemson 24-6 to reach the final game.
UCF finished the regular season 12-0, the only undefeated team in FBS. However, because of their schedule, the Knights were ranked only No. 12 in the country when the four teams were chosen for the College Football Playoff.
Then the Knights went on to beat Auburn, which had handed Alabama its only loss, in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Day. Hence, the national champion claims.
Saban said he had a lot of respect for what UCF accomplished because going undefeated is no small feat, but he said the national champion claims were unfair.
"We've only had one undefeated team, and that is really hard to do," Saban said. "So I have a tremendous amount of respect for their team and what they were able to accomplish. ... And they can make every claim that they should have been in the playoff. I get that.
"But we have a system, and it's not fair to the people who went through the system and earned their way playing really, really good teams -- I mean really good teams -- and really tough games. It's not quite fair to them for somebody else just to decide to (claim a national championship)."